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tv   Book TV After Words  CSPAN  November 27, 2009 1:00pm-2:00pm EST

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>> of princeton university, the man who gave us these men, professor fleming's new book is "the anti-communist manifestos." for books that shaped the cold war. one of the characters in this
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book by professor fleming was at a protest at carnegie hall in new york during that cruiseship visit. and he said our job is not to end the cold war. our job is to win it. professor kling has an extraordinarily interesting take on these men and the spirit. welcome, sir. >> guest: thank you it is a great pleasure to be here. >> host: we will divide the hour into three parts. in the first part we will talk to professor fleming about the content of his book, those four figures that he spends time on. jan valtin, victor kravchenko. these are two names we have heard less perhaps not a. and two names we have heard more, arthur koestler and whittaker chambers. in the second segment we will talk about -- with professor fleming about these men but why he loves these books and how he came to this topic and his other works.
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is a professor at princeton in their district he is a literature man, a classic manager he is writing partial stogie apology. how did that come about? and then the final segment we will talk about why the anti-communist authors matter today. to questions that professor fleming alone seems to me among the writers takes up our whether it matters if these men were imperfect, if they were sinners, if they were perhaps lied, fabricated, if they propagandized? does that affect the quality of the message they were delivering about soviet russia or communism. and also a second question, what does it have to do perhaps with our foreign policy now, because were at another point we don't know how to evaluate the quality of democracy in russia or for that matter, china. what signals do we take seriously emanating from those countries, from the ports of those countries, about what's going on and how we should
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decide when we say that's too far from democracy, or that's close enough. before we start, i would just like to do one thing, because there are lots of days in the story and it's fairly long ago, which is to run a little bit through the chronology of american history and the cold war. the chronology that are subject lives through. 1917. we start with the russian revolution, the bolshevik came to power. in the 1920s, we have stalled and consolidating power, the moderates are out. stalin is pushing his old cold revolution is out. there is a terrible salmon in the ukraine where millions died because of soviet policy. 1933, the depression. u.s. recognized the soviet union. it doesn't say we approve of every aspect of it, but we respect it as a sovereign nation. 1930s, among other things
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there is a purge trial. the reign of terror in the soviet union putting the revolutionaries stalin's own peers go on trial. that's what kessler is running out in darkness at noon. 1939, stalin makes a pact with hitler and hitler instantly invades poland. so they are both together and we are watching most on the other side, but watching. 1941, hitler invaded russia. suddenly soviet russia switches from an enemy to perhaps an ally, becomes an ally. we are allies in world war ii. these great conferences setting how europe will be after the war. we are working with russia in this period and then after the war, from 45 on the world war ii is over. the cold war is beginning. we are beginning to realize russia is not the kind of ally we would imagine. the point is, the u.s. the only
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relationship, flip-flops a lot. and americans are going through this trying to figure out what they make of it all. professor fleming. you chose four figures. let's start with the lesser-known ones. who was jan valtin? >> guest: jan valtin was a german sailor, working-class merchant marine guy, born in 1905. and his wife in some ways was a paradigm of the left wing communist, powerful kindness movement in germany that was crushed when adolf hitler came to power in 1933. krebs joined the communist party quite early. there were two sort of pseudo- revolutions in russia. won in 1919, and the more important one in 1923.
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krebs is a very young kid. was involved in the 1923 uprising. and soon thereafter became quite active in the common turn. the common turn was the international communist party. and its chief jobs were espionage, propaganda, agitation and so on. on one of his missions, to the united states in 1926, he committed an act of violence, attempted murder, in los angeles. and was incarcerated in san quentin prison. this becomes a very crucial question as to the veracity of his famous book, "out of the night" when it eventually appears, but immediately have the following effects on him.
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kreps became one of the editors, the contributors to the san quentin prisoners magazine. he took lots of extension courses in writing from the university of california again he at that point determined to become a writer. however, he got out of san quentin in 1929. was deported. went back to europe. got cut up again in communistic activities. according to him, he was thrown into jail by the nazis, from which he escaped by the following rules. he pretended to have converted to not use them. the nazis allowed him to go out so he would go back and be a double agent working with his former communist allies. day, however, didn't think there was anything phony about his conversion. and under these circumstances he
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said, chased by the secret police both of russia and germany. he took off for the united states where he jumped ship in 1938. got involved with some literary people in new york come especially the great anti-communist entrepreneur isaac don levine. and in 1941, right at the end of 1940, published an extraordinary book, 800 pages long out of the night that seemed to be an autobiography. its content was implicitly very anti-communist. and therefore they cause a big stink with a left wing in this country and the communist tried to the bucket. that to jan valtin was. >> time out is he published it in the early 40s, that's when
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we are allies with the soviet union. >> guest: right. obvious he, he couldn't plant this. but the possibility of his publishing a major anti-communist book found exactly the right window of opportunity. that is, in 1939, in august of 1939, hitler and stalin had announced a pact. this seemed extraordinary to the western left. communist parties had to fall in line, turn on a dime for this. prussia in many circles really fell into disrepute even with american intellectuals at that point. it was during this period, that is the period during which hitler and stalin were allies, this was prepared as you already mention of the invasion of poland later in 1940.
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it was the period of the fall of france which arthur koestler was of course caught up. but in 1941 through 1941, hitler stabbed stalin in the back and he invades russia in operation barbarossa. from then on, it is very culturally rude to see anything wrong about the soviet union. so krebs lucked out at just the right moment. >> host: he published another one. >> guest: that is right. >> host: but the book continued to sell? >> guest: it hardly continue to sell, but very soon, krebs himself is jan valtin's real name was richard krebs. and he gets called both krebs and jan valtin. but very soon he became the story. because the communist.
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become his part in this country still had a fair amount of cultural clout. and they certainly had a large periphery of supporters who were trying to debunk this book, and to have krebs deported. he had actually entered the country again illegally after all. he was a convicted felon. in order to survive, krebs would have to do to seemingly impossible things. one, get a pardon from the governor of california for this crime that had been committed in 1926. and second, get a special bill through congress to make him a citizen. he did both things with the help of this sort of anti-communist in washington. >> host: use sketched out some of the fabrications, maybe he wasn't privy of where he was, maybe what he said happened didn't happen, and looking to the evidence of this incident on the west coast where he beat a
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man up. is that you might affect the message? >> guest: it does not affect the message. a lot of fiction gets into autobiography. in fact, that's one of the things that i write about a bit. now and again in this book. but krebs got himself into a situation partly because the book had been adopted by the book-of-the-month club. and these jurors of the book-of-the-month club wanted an ironclad guarantee to an gospel of luke, which he gave to them. and it is an autobiographical fiction, i will put it that way. has a lot of autobiography in it and has an awful lot of fiction. >> host: today on both right and left people are sometimes critical of books that border or change where you mention billions of pieces, a book by james frey about his past addiction to view it on oprah to
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describe this bad behavior, dramatically. and then it turned out he gave some of it up and over was outraged. and other rivals have yet the historian paul johnson weddell book about how intellectuals are dishonest and therefore, that compromise their theory as well. so it's interesting, i think reading the book, one of the things i picked up about these characters, these desperate men who wrote the book, that communism was really bad. they were already a little bit crazy. >> guest: well, -- >> host: by their own theory. >> guest: the term i use is damaged. post-traumatic stress had not yet been invented, but in the political life of every one of these writer, certainly krebs who have been through the purges and harassed so much, casler who had been under condemnation of death in the spanish civil war.
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whittaker chambers was a very strange and tortured man. i think they are all damaged to some degree. and it shows in their work. let's do a little bit about each of these starting with victor kravchenko. a different kind of background in education to start with. than jan valtin. >> guest: absolutely. krebs was a ukrainian engineer, also born in 1905. three of these people were born in 1905, the year of the premature or failed russian revolution. but being born in 1905 meant that krebs' life exactly overlap with the development of the bolshevik power.
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so that -- in his youth he had been excited, very excited by the revolution. he joined the communist party. he was a technocrat. he was a great expert and metallurgy, and especially in making metal pipes, a very important part of the industrial process. and he experienced -- he did go to the gulags, but he was mightily harassed by the altar the 1930s. and he came to regard the soviet authority as atrocious and legitimate, his dearest brother was killed in the war. he himself had fought in the war. but he was then plucked out to be one of the representative at the office in washington. as you probably know, our greatest contribution to the european war for the first two years of the war, was material
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to britain and the russia. and it was in washington, with the help of some anti-communist, russian friends, that the possibility of defection became likely. and in 1944, while the war was still on, he defected. although we didn't use that word than. >> host: professionally difficult thing because in that particular year in our chronology, we were allies with russia. so is a bit different from a -- >> guest: absolutely. transeventy was a pioneer in many different ways. he pulled this off marvelously. that one thing that i go into is the important part of the book as it relates specifically to krebs has to do with the
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european scene, and let's first mentioned the title of his book. "i chose freedom." a little bit about and let's talk about the krebs case. >> guest: right. his book is a straight autobiography. it is called "i chose freedom," and he wrote it in a two-year period beginning in april, 1940, 1944. it comes out in 1946. krebs was an engineer. he didn't know english. the english language at all when he arrived here. he was not a writer under these circumstances. he collaborated with one of the famous anti-communist literary figures of the 1930s. eugene lyons, who had been a left wing reporter in russia shortly after the revolution. and unlike so many in that
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situation, was deeply disillusioned in socialism. well, he became one of the major pictures features right here. he was closely associate with the reader's digest. editor of the american mercury, and so on. the collaboration between these two is extremely interesting, and i write about it at some length, but nonetheless, i chose freedom was not a ghost written book. kravchenko wrote the book and lions job was to structure it and to include it in american indian, which he did with great success, and the book, the government -- >> guest: tranninety did make a few points did he end of his book. he accused russia of having an absolutely foreign policy that
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was not in cooperaticooperation with united states. but the tremendous grinding condemnation of the soviet communism that comes out of that book, "i chose freedom," is not theoretical. is organic. it simply grows out of the narrative as you follow, and idealistic hard-working industrial minded guy caught up in the madness of the bureaucracy in the gulags. >> host: what was the kravchenko case in france when the book was published in french, he went there, there were some critical reviews? >> guest: that's absolutely right. this book, the focus of his book, is on public opinion in two countries. the united states and france. the role of the united states i
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think is the obvious to anybody here. the united states was the only country that conceivably could contain the soviet union and a military confrontation. but the congress party never was strong and communism was never really amounted to very much into the united states. so kravchenko, his book was written for the middle of the anti-communist but it didn't really change a great deal of the scene in the united states. situation was very different and france. friends i call the new germany, meaning that just as the germany of the post post-world war i, wn a state that made it likely or highly possible that they would be a socialist revolution in germany. this was the situation that now obtained in france. >> host: and we tend to forget that after world war ii.
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that france was in play, there were communist and friends, euro communism, that the communist that very many people at the resistance were communist. so people who thought the nazis and tortured by the nazis were also communist. there was communism and italy. and europe was in play and therefore kravchenko was attacked. i say we have about 10 minutes before you need to go. and move on a bit, but say a word or two about this trial. he wasn't the defendant, was a? >> guest: no. this was one of the brilliant things that we can give to kravchenko because he thought of as himself. his book when it appeared in a french translation was immediately and violent attack in the comet press as a total fraud. that is, it was said that kravchenko had never written a book. that the book had been written by an american intelligence
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agent and so forth and so on. now what kravchenko did was to go to paris and through this journal for libel. and you had what was called the trial of the century. you notice appears about twice every decade. the trial of the century in which one after another, famous french intellectual got up and swore on a stack of copies of the economy's there were no prison camps in russia, no gulags, or anything else. and what kravchenko had done was he had ransacked cams in western europe and produced one after another, very telling eyewitne eyewitness. that is, people who have actually been in the gulags, including a sensational one. margarita, who had been in prison first in the russian gulags, and then in one of
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hitler's concentration camps and was able to make a judgment. >> host: what did she find? >> guest: she find it surprise i think on that. but it was quite clear that on the whole, hitler's prisons were preferred to stalin's. >> host: so there is always this question, which is worse, russia, the soviet russia, or not to germany behind all these writings? and for france to hear the testimony was a new thing and kind of broke i don't have a cultural bubble. anyway, there was enormous discussion around the trial. >> guest: it was practically in western intellectual circles to suggest any possible parallel between fascism and communism. to a certain extent, it it still is. i mean, most people that you meet on the street, if you ask them maybe two or three german
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concentration camps, they will ask what. at the average man on the street, what were the three largest component of the gulags? geographically speaking. they will have no idea. even though there were more people destroyed in the gulags. >> host: you have an interesting point in this book we say, i am paraphrasing, concentration camps are the nike thing that we have in our not see. and one way that it became, it was demonstrated that the soviet union was really dangerous, that was horrific, was through making clear that there were also camps, concentration camps or something like that in the soviet union that we later got that. that was the way that the reality kind of penetrated, because only by showing that the soviet union also had camps, were those who knew of all the
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trouble, the tragedy they are able to convey that tragedy. we have two other characters that we want to get to with better known names. i think right now we're going to see tranny. what was his book into a arthur koestler? >> guest: he's one of the great intellectuals of the 20th century. and if people have read any of his books, they are very likely to have read his great novel, "darkness at noon." "darkness at noon" published in the very end of 1940 with the almost exactly the same time that "out of the night" was coming at. all of the books had a connection. koestler had been an very active member of the german, his party. he had all sorts of exciting experiences with the party. he traveled, he was a secret member. there were both overt numbers of the commonest party and secret
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members like koestler in germany because it was thought that it would be more effective in their position if they were not known to be communist. koestler got of course can't append a space civil war. he was captured by the franco forces. he was about to be executed. in a very adventurous life himself. but partly through his experience in 1938 in the spanish civil war, he broke with communist and almost immediately began writing this novel, "darkness at noon." "darkness at noon," the plot of "darkness at noon," it is about a man named nicholas river shock two is a fictional composite of several of the more famous bolsheviks who went down in the purges of the 1930s. at the beginning of the book he
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is captured arrested and incarcerated, and at the end of the book is shot. there is no suspense about it. the dynamism of the book consists in his conservation cof himself, his memory, but with two very different kinds of interrogators. a good cop and a bad cop. and the question that this book asks, and several other books of koestler, what is the relationship between ends and means. if we are trying to arrive at a socialist, communist and nirvana, if we really believe in that, does that not justify us in doing everything we need to do to get there. so that's it. >> host: this is the best gumbo, the one we still read in school. you mentioned that modern libraries in the '90s, one of the hundred best novels, "darkness at noon" was a number.
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with a few minutes more now to talk about in america, the other book, "witness" by whittaker chambers. out two or three minutes, can you tell us about that book and his relationship with alger has? >> guest: yes, i can. i thought it was important for the argument of my book to have a home-grown american communist. my three others of course europeans. whittaker chambers was an american journalist and a colombian dropout who early got involved in radical politics who joined the american commonest party, who soon thereafter went underground. that is, actually became an espionage agent for the russians. his job was as a courier, taking documents that were stolen by
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other spies in washington, having them photographs, the whole spy routine. and one of the people, one of the washington spies, according to his allegations, and as now is almost definitively demonstrated by historical documents from various kinds, one of his colleagues was a man named alger hiss. alger kiss was a high ranking civil servant. he was in the state department. he was a lot of experiments with gum. he was ahead of the carnegie, at the time, this all came out in 1940. he was the head of a major foundation. >> host: professor flemmi, forgive me. we will now have to take a break and after that we'll come back to alger hiss.
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>> in the upper left hand corner of the page. select the watch link. now you can view the entire program. you might also look for the recently on book tv box or the featured programs box to find and view recent and featured programs. >> "after words" with john fleming and amity shlaes continues. >> host: welcome back. i am amity shlaes. this is "after words" piccard yesterday is professor john fleming from princeton university with his new book,
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"the anti-communist manifestos." watauga three of the four figures in the book. were talking about now about the fourth figure, whittaker chambers. the author of "witness," and alger hiss. chambers took down his. suggested he was working with a communist and the professor and i were just talking about what a stunning allegation that was because hiss was someone very high in american society. >> guest: certainly very high in the esteem of the role of establishment, many eminent people have testified to his good character. adlai stevenson for example, to sitting supreme court justices. hiss -- whittaker chambers, alger hiss affair with wood from
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1948 really to 1950 when hiss was convicted of treason, remained it seems to me one of the great historical controversies of the 20th century. and animates passions to this very day. in my book i try to claim that this is probably a mistake. that is to say, that the reason it has caused so much passion is because what i call premature optimization. that is, the fact that alger hiss was a communist and was involved in soviet espionage. need not bring with him a whole tale of condemnation, of liberalism, the new deal. but this is how it has been seen historically.
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for whittaker chambers, i do feel very sorry for him. no good deed goes unpunished. he thought he was doing a good deed. in exposing a sinister conspiracy at the heart of american government. his reward was to become one of the most despised and rejected at least by the establishment figures of his generation. >> host: what i recall reading about it, was that a lot of the hostility concentrate on his person, that he had bad teeth and he was a slob, that is who didn't look nice. so when they were attacking on content, how dare he alleges is, that someone much love in the establishment, but also on the man himself, that that was so vicious that him and his family. you wrote -- i should mention this book appeared in 1952?
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>> guest: correct. >> host: u-boat and this is different from other books in that people knew what was coming because they had already heard in washington and hearings and testimony, chambers, hiss, you wrote in the book to audiences awaited witness a large public scandalized by alger hiss treason and best ball aren't of elite review to the actually believe in hiss is inner sense or could regard such technical guilt as he might bear as many when compared with the mortal sin of the means of exposure. that the way that chambers expose was so tacky, so low class, then that's what mattered more. and i was an attitude you would pick up when you read the literary press certainly. >> guest: arthur kester who became a friend of chambers and who wrote a very little squib went chambers died, saying that i always, something like this.
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i always thought that whittaker chambers was the most badly misunderstood man of origin, race or something like this. chambers really brought down the historical obloquy upon himself. koestler also had a very nice, this drama. the drama of whittaker chambers and alger hiss was miscast from the cinematic point of view. alger hiss was handsome, slim, tastefully dressed and so on. whittaker chambers was, as you say, rather sloppy looking, overweight, moreau's, long face kind of thing. and if you're entering a world in which -- it was just the opposite way.
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furthermore, whittaker chambers became a great buddies with people like richard nixon. he was adulation by ronald reagan. he was admired by j. edgar hoover and so on. all sorts of villains of the intellectual left with the friends of whittaker chambers. so you can see he was a popular figure. >> host: you talk interesting about what i would call aesthetics which relate to your own work and a large part of your career, you quote i believe that maybe cromwell time, round and you say they wrote of people that they were wrong but romantic, or right but repulsive. >> guest: that's from a very -- i'm using a book by yeats and sellers called 1066, and all that. a sort of joke history. yes, he characterizes the
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roundheads as right but repulsive. and the cavaliers as wrong but romantic. you can apply that to some of our characters. >> host: we look at a visualage. if you look that he is back. is the first impression on the entire impression of how much intake beyond a first impression should you do. and that was clearly a lot of attention here was to make the people who are saying these things, that the union was so awful, that those who helped the soviet communist party were traitors. make those people look themselves whether laudable is going on, for example, with chambers. but i want to switch out a little to yourself and who you are. is very exciting to have someone from a slightly different field come into this field. you are not a soviet strength if you're a professor of literature. on so many years at princeton
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with many students i should add who love you, you have an expertise in chaucer. some of your other titles earlier, well,ell, found a introduction to the franciscan literature of the middle ages. i found a
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agreed that the soviet aims were the traditional aims of czarist imperialist russia forever. that what was this wonderful phrase, they are unimpressed by the force of logic, that they understand the logic of force i think is the way he put a. and the united states should contain, confront at every point the expansion of soviet power. i was very interested to see. maybe you have read a. there is a brand-new biography out which i have not met picadilly came out i think last week or a couple of weeks ago. but it begins with kenyon being quoted as saying actually i was rather misunderstood. the cold war would have been
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shorter if it had not been militarized. that actually i don't know how to read either one of those documents of kennan talking about the containment of soviet russia without involving military force. but i'm certainly looking forward to reading that. >> host: there was a certain ambivalence there on tendance part about the reaction that he provoked. but what he did is a big part of the story of your book, because what he said was no soviet government. stone is not like us. is not just a good buddy. they come out of an empire. they are not necessarily our friend. navy containment is the only answer. and that i would say confirms some of the things that were being suggested by the books you described. >> guest: yes. i mean, other heroes of mine that get mentioned are the great
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french anti-communist intellectual. he characterized the cold war as a situation, quote, in which peace is impossible but war is an probable. not many people willing to believe that war was improbable. so one of the great shticks of the international congress movement was the so-called peace campaign. also, david allen, the menshevik author who during this period wrote a very impressive academic book about slave labor and forced labor and russia. and who was kravchenko's chief contact both with the fbi and with "the new york times." he has a wonderful phrase somewhere. he says that international affairs have to be conducted
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according to conventional truths and conventionalized. but he's not going to lie and the great conventional lie that he was trying to expose is that the russians, after all, are just kind of like us and we can all, why can't we all get along. sort of a rodney king stuff. kravchenko and other people were trying to show you why that was not going to work. >> host: i think it's important we talk to the a lot about political correctness that you don't have the right you, maybe harder for you in the academy to get tenure, but i would say the limits today and the constraints are nothing like the isolation that confronted these figures when they said these things. because they might get a job. whitacre worked for the time magazine. but there were a lot of places where what they said was too much for them to be employed. it was hard to get tenured, to
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be part of the academy once you have said something like this. you are often a bit isolated. >> guest: well, chambers had felt personally prior to resign his job. >> host: that's right. >> guest: he never went back to the only place he could find work was with bill buckley and the national review. of course, he went very far into the right. a lot of people were chased in that direction. a lot of ex-communists either were converted to religion, christianity, or return to christianity, judaism. and i think a very important and largely neglected and trivialized part of witness, which is one of the great american autobiographies, whatever you think of whittaker chambers as a person, fantastically impressive book.
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and one of most least understood thing is the great religious theme of redemption and conversion that he is writing about there. very impressive. and it is a great american tradition. >> host: with the government sometimes compete with the church or the political ideology of course, competes with faith and what he was saying is i choose christian faith. >> guest: he did. one of the things i touch on, it's not hardly original, was one of the books that had the wonderful title, referring to communism, the opiate of the intellectual. the marxist phrase your it's obvious that classical communism
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in the mid century was very much like a religious belief system. especially in france. and i try to talk about that. and had a ton of protocols, its own vocabulary. and of course it had its own intensity and theological heat for heretics. >> host: we have just a few minutes more. i think it's important to talk about how your book, in your language, did shape the cold war. what was the political, economic context, how did opinion change? we want to recall for example the share of the economy with greater than it is even now when we're in a a war in afghanistan. we had this bitter korean war. we had you to. one of these books came out, they change the world because
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the average man would be jan valtin or he would read arthur koestler and begin to understand maybe the korean war. what do you think? >> guest: well, one of the points i try to make here, and this grows out of my experience of my whole career. i am a medievalists. i deal with very remote periods, where the documentation is hard to get at. is an obscure language and apache and so forth. and you constantly have to be reminding herself that you are looking back into history. and it is not going to be helpful to you to bring with you a whole set of your assumptions, which you then impose upon the materials. now looking back at the cold war and in the 1950s and so on, it seems much more inevitable than
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it actually was. that is to say, in intellectual circles, and academics circle, there was great enthusiasm for many decades for the socialist ideal and so on. there was indeed a kind of naïve attitude towards the soviet union. it had to be in someway confronted in in a way that got a public head of steam behind it. everything that i'm talking about, with the exception of the later part of chambers history, is pretty maccarthy. that is, these were among the things that really changed people's minds. to a certain extent in this country. but even more in france. i mean, the impact of the darkness at noon in the french
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translation, and the debate that came up around the impact of the kravchenko trial and in a copycat trial that followed that, which a french journalist, brought a case against the french. these really did have a serious impact on public opinion. my publishers first wanted to call this book is subtitled for books that caused the cold war. now that is way over the top. there was going to be a cold war for all of the political reasons that kennan saw. but i am trying to show that there is a genuine literature and that these books played a role. was a criteria? the books had to be very widely read, super bestsellers. they had to be publicly confronted and controvert.
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and that is true of all four of these books. and therefore, they are in the center of a vortex of study and they come out in the trial site. >> host: and books we hope still do that now, what other media, i'm thinking for example as you speak about in iran, there was a camera that caught the shooting of a demonstrator, and she died on the street with people router and a doctor around her and she died within minutes. and that crystallize the whole skepticism about the iranian government, about elections there. this young girl dying. what is the medium now that has the power? is it still books? is a television? is a twitter? is it you to? is it your self camera? how do these moments come out? >> guest: i am not expert in
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cybernetics and communication theory, and i sit around probably like you reading, throwing my hands up as i read one essay after notice saying the book is dead or sullivan is dead, or what ever it is. i think that we now have a very large variety of media from which we are likely to, call this thing with acorn for example and a couple of simple guerrilla filmmakers. i haven't seen the whole thing, but here a couple of amateurs seem to be having an impact on public policy and public perception. in any event. at the moment where this might spill over into the health care debate. who knows? >> host: you're talking before about this sanctimony that you could never criticize the american establishment. you couldn't say -- you just
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could never say that russia might be bad, there's a little bit of that now. you can't criticize agencies that work with the government and when we begin to say well, a court is human. the people that work there might be susceptible to corruption, given the amount of money flow and around. oh, my god, is this even possible, the same drama around a corner. another one of thinking, the media, you remember in the 1989, at the political turn, people believed that fact was the new medium of political change. the facts, fas, tiananmen and swear. the facts was now past. so the media of course to change. maybe the methods is what matter. it's interesting i think books have done better than the past.
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books are still here and the facts is less here. >> guest: either we have many sources of information and excitement and so on, obviously i am rather old fashion college professor. i taught literature for 40 years. by investment is in books. and i do believe that the book is going to have in the future the same impact as it had in the past, although probably various other kinds of competitors. one interesting thing that is related to what you are talking about is that so many of the techniques of propaganda, to form the word that time is used, that are now, that we are now seeing in this guerrilla theater and all this thing, were developed by very capable commonest operatives in the
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1930s. the great genius of the german communist party propaganda was a friend of transcendence, and actually plays a role also in bills out of the night and so on. was an extremely inventive guy. he invented a front organization, useful idiots. all sorts of stuff, which we still see, you know, changing in the present climate. >> host: every seo book is so interesting is because it asks, does beauty propaganda well done, bring us closer to truth to the actual reality underlying, or does it get in the way? and it seems to me you are saying both. >> guest: one from the theoretical points you raise, i think the closest i get to that
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is in my discussion of truth and autobiography. you already mentioned one of these episodes, james frey. e. gets caught out about his alleged wittiness and gets scolded before millions of people by oprah winfrey. manchu writes a fictional autobiography which because of his politically correct content is given a pass. that was really the question at play in the case of "out of the night." people who wanted to use the book for anti-communism purposes were willing to wink, at least, it's obvious fabrications. >> host: we have time for one
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last question. and i will ask you a bit about the world now. what areas are of concern, looking at russia, you see president putin recently one of his colleagues as well, he is becoming like brezhnev. the cold war leader that is awesome fine into permanent power. how do we know what's going on in china or russia? and who are the messengers? who are the jan valtin? or the other side? >> guest: certainly not me. i am not an expert either in soviet politics. i will say this, it seems to me definitive that the communism that i am writing about here has vanished permanently from the earth. it was partly a political impression but partly also a st

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